Brandon Pfaadt has made tremendous strides throughout his first three years at Division II Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky.
Coming out of high school, the right-handed pitcher wasn’t caught up in whether he played Division I or Division II collegiate baseball. He wanted the chance to prove himself and hopefully keep alive his life-long goal of playing in the professional ranks.
His desire to attend a university he was comfortable with and one that allowed him to play immediately as a freshman on the baseball team has paid off. Pfaadt has developed into one of the country’s top MLB draft prospects over the last three years despite playing at the Division II level.
Pfaadt is an intriguing prospect and could potentially be a top-five-round pick in this year’s draft. His draft status is slightly a mystery, however, due to the shortened spring and with the draft likely being significantly less than the standard 40 rounds.
“It’s humbling to know I am in that spot,” Pfaadt said. “Not a lot of people from my school get to experience this. I just try to enjoy it and stay humble. I just take pride in it and continue to work hard to hopefully make that accomplishment that I’ve always wanted to make.”
Throughout high school, Pfaadt drew interest from Division I mid-major programs but Bellarmine stood out to him. He developed a strong relationship with coach Larry Owens throughout the recruiting process and the fact that his older brother Brady was on the team also factored into his decision.
Going the Division II route allowed him to play immediately as a freshman. It also has motivated him throughout his collegiate career. Pfaadt always has had aspirations of playing in the pro ranks, but it wasn’t until last season that he realized that it was a realistic option, he said.
Pfaadt spent last summer playing in the Cape Cod League, which is the top collegiate summer baseball league. He thrived in 10 appearances, recording a 2.95 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings. His success improved his confidence and allowed him to realize he could compete with the top players in college baseball, he said.
“I just went up there and wondered what people would be like,” Pfaadt said. “The first few weeks I was up there I had a big confidence boost. I knew I could do it, and with coming from a small D-II, I wanted to put Bellarmine on the map.”
As a freshman in 2018, Pfaadt split time between the starting rotation and bullpen. He posted a 6.04 ERA with 58 strikeouts and 15 walks allowed in 47 2/3 innings (12 appearances).
He pitched almost exclusively out of the bullpen as a sophomore last year, making just two starts in his 22 appearances. He showed improvements, lowering his ERA to 4.03 and tallying 50 strikeouts and 14 walks allowed in 38 innings.
In a shortened spring season this year, Pfaadt excelled, notching a 1.38 ERA with 27 strikeouts and four walks allowed in 26 innings as Bellarmine’s No. 1 starter.
Pfaadt is a 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-hander who throws a five-pitch mix from a three-quarters arm slot. He throws a four-seam fastball, sinker, changeup, slider and curveball.
His fastball sits 93-95 mph. He typically relies on his sinker when a hitter is sitting on his fastball in hopes of generating a swing and miss or inducing a ground ball.
His slider is his best off-speed pitch and serves as his outpitch. He also has confidence in his changeup and believes it’s a solid offering, he said.
“I would say my passion for the game is my biggest strength,” Pfaadt said. “That might sound cliché, but I have played baseball since I was 5. It’s a dream come true for my family and me.”
Pfaadt spent the offseason working on his endurance to handle a starting-pitcher workload. He also dedicated time to refining his off-speed pitches, especially his curveball, in hopes of throwing his secondary pitches more consistently for strikes.
With his junior season cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic, Pfaadt wants to add strength to his frame in hopes of improving his fastball velocity.
“I think getting even stronger and more explosive are things I want to improve on,” Pfaadt said. “I think my pitching game is pretty good but that can get better as well. I think I just need to keep working out and hopefully, that velo keeps going up. I think that would help and benefit me the most.”
If this season is Pfaadt’s last in the college ranks, he’s appreciative of his time at Bellarmine. He’s developed into a draft prospect in his three years at Bellarmine while also playing with his older brother Brady his freshman year and his younger brother Brett this season.
“It didn’t matter Division I or Division II coming out of high school,” Pfaadt said. “I just saw what was best for me. I’m glad I did that because I feel like a lot of kids just get caught up in D-I and don’t look D-II. It works out. It’s a big difference, but you can have your dreams come true in D-II if you work hard.”
Read more stories on top 2020 MLB draft prospects here.
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for five years. He’s interviewed 191 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.